Girls Basketball Shore Shakeup: No. 3 Manasquan Shocks No. 1 St. John Vianney
MANASQUAN -- The Manasquan girls basketball team knew that it would take all 32 minutes Thursday night on its home floor to take down the No. 1 team in the Shore Sports Network Girls Basketball Shore 16 in St. John Vianney.
They also knew that with the way they have played this season, this was the Warriors' best chance to take down the Shore's power program for the first time in half-a-decade.
In a defense-first game, the Warriors -- ranked No. 3 in the Shore 16 -- rode the hot hand of senior Hope Masonius, as she delivered a lights-out, 21-point performance to lead Manasquan to a 46-40 upset victory over the Lady Lancers.
This was the first time that Vianney has been defeated inside the Shore Conference in 63 games, while this was also the first time that Manasquan has taken down SJV since the 2018 Shore Conference Tournament final. St. John Vianney's Shore Conference loss prior to Thursday was to St. Rose in the 2019 NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A final.
The Warriors have had their fair share of statement wins 11 games into the season (Holmdel, Neptune, Ocean, Trinity Hall), but the biggest was yet to come entering Thursday night.
While both the Lady Lancers and Warriors have been known for their offensive barrages, it was a defensive bout from start to finish. Neither team was able to execute at the usual rate and Vianney jumped out to 9-5 lead after one quarter.
"First of all, we always battle on the defensive end," Manasquan coach Lisa Kukoda said. "Our practices are focused on defense. We were physical with each other. They were batting against each other and we were making sure in a defensive shell that we were always battling while being ready for the physicality."
Manasquan senior Katie Collins and Vianney senior Julia Karpell both exchanged three-pointers to open the second quarter. It was then the Manasquan defense really shined, forcing turnovers and making the plays that needed to be made against the top team in the Shore Conference.
A crucial three-pointer by senior McKenna Karlson highlighted an 11-0 run by Manasquan and junior Olivia Shaughnessy capped it off with a layup. The scoreless run by the Lancers against Manasquan's lockdown defense spanned seven minutes and the Warriors carried a 16-15 lead to halftime.
"There were some things on the defensive side of the ball we were doing right, but we knew that if we kept them within distance, it would be tough for us," senior Hope Masonius said. "We felt good going into the half but we knew we needed to adjust on certain things and capitalize whenever we could."
The halftime momentum for the Warriors resumed immediately at the start of the third quarter as Masonius started to heat up, draining a three-pointer to cap off a 9-2 run.
"She has such an ability to impact a game in so many ways," Kukoda said of Masonius. "Obviously, scoring is the one that everyone kind of sees but it's her ability to hold down the rebound. It's her ability to attack and dish. It's her ability to pull a defense in and then when she's finding others, it opens up the floor. She's just such a versatile player for us."
After Manasquan extended its lead to 10, the Lancers got two much-needed baskets: a layup by Stella Lockhart and a three-pointer by Daniella Matus to make it a 27-22 game. Manasquan called timeout hoping to quickly regroup and gameplan.
"We never got too low or too high during the game," Masonius said. "That's what makes us so dangerous this year. I feel like we all have the ability to compose ourselves and we're able to regroup no matter the situation. We had to do that multiple times today but whenever they had an answer, we were able to answer right back."
Katie Collins continued to play strong, with three of her 13 points coming late in the third to make it a 30-22 lead out of the timeout. Another three-pointer by Karpell brought it back to within five, but strong ball movement to close out the third led to another Masonius basket to make it a 32-25 game.
At the start of the fourth, Masonius hit a three to put the Warriors back up 10, but the Lancers quickly cut the lead to four. Masonius went strong to the basket once again, giving the Warriors a 37-31 lead with 5:30 to play.
Vianney had multiple chances down the stretch, and Karpell delivered another three-pointer to cut the SJV deficit to two. Masonius once again came up with the answer, matching Karpell's three and giving the Warriors a 42-37 lead with under two minutes to play.
"My teammates are the ones that get me the looks to score," Masonius said. "I mean all credit to them. They make the game easier for myself and I think when you're playing against a team of this caliber and you can make the little things happen, it's such a confidence boost."
After Lockhart was fouled and made one of two from the line, sophomore Taylor Sofilkanich came up with a tough delivery to cut the Manasquan lead to 42-40. Collins responded instantly for the Warriors and increased the lead back to four with 50 seconds to play.
The defense shined once again for Manasquan by delivering two crucial stops and the Warriors closed the game with two free throws. After one final possession for Vianney, the clock struck zero and Manasquan celebrated the one of the biggest regular-season wins in the Shore Conference in years.
"It's not so much the opponent," Kukoda said. "Obviously, there's a lot of buildup in this scenario but it's about this group; what they're about and what they're putting forward. Obviously, it's a great win for the seniors. I don't want to say it's a reward but it's a great recognition of everything they've put forward."